Brother wants answers after body pulled from Mississippi river IDed as missing Jackson man

Published 12:20 pm Saturday, April 20, 2024

by Mina Corpuz, Mississippi Today
April 18, 2024

With a preliminary identification of remains pulled from the Pearl River as that of missing Belhaven Heights resident Dau Mabil, his brother has secured a restraining order barring the body’s release before an autopsy and U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson is requesting a Justice Department investigation.

A preliminary autopsy of a body recovered from Lawrence County was completed and an official DNA confirmation is expected by early next week, said Bailey Martin, a spokesperson for the Department of Public Safety. In a Facebook post, Lawrence County Sheriff Ryan Everett said the preliminary autopsy “did not reveal any type of foul play. The official determination may be made at a later time, pending further testing.”

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On Thursday, Mabil’s brother, Bul Mabil, and his attorney Lisa Ross gathered at the Museum Trail entrance in Belhaven Heights where Dau Mabil was last seen.

“We want to know what happened to Dau,” said Bul Mabil.  “And if anybody has put their hand on my brother, these people will have to be held accountable. And that’s why I’m here to get to the bottom of it.”

Last image of Dau Mabil on Jefferson Street in Jackson, Miss., before he disappeared on March 25, 2024.

Video surveillance from the area showed what is believed to be several people moving a body into a truck, said Lisa Ross, Bul Mabil’s attorney.

They were at the trail to show where Mabil likely fought for his life and to encourage people to come forward with any information about his disappearance.

On Thursday morning, Hinds County Chancery Court Judge Dewayne Thomas approved Bul Mabil’s request for an emergency temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to prevent the release of Dau’s body until autopsies can be done by the State Medical Examiner’s office and an independent examiner, according to court records.

“Given the nature of Mr. Mabil’s disappearance and the location of the body found, it is likely that an autopsy will be required to determine if foul play was involved,” Thomas wrote in his order.

Defendants named in the restraining order are Mabil’s wife, Karissa Bowley, the Capitol Police and the State Medical Examiner’s office. Judge Thomas’ order notes that none of the defendants or attorneys representing them came to the Thursday morning hearing.

“We were very concerned that a body could be released without a proper autopsy being done,” Ross said. “We know that autopsies are very important in determining a cause of death, and this family wants to know the cause of death.”

Bowley did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday. But later that day, she retained an attorney who filed a motion to add Bowley as a co-plaintiff and to modify the injunction.

In that court filing, Bowley said she was not served a copy of the complaint until 5 p.m. Wednesday, and she was not notified about the Thursday morning hearing.

“She would have attended had she known,” according to the court filing. “She would have testified that she embraces the court’s granted relief … she would have granted the plaintiff’s request had he asked.”

As Mabil’s living spouse and legal next-of-kin, Bowley asserted her authority to determine whether it is appropriate to have an independent autopsy. In the motion, she asked the court to modify the injunction to allow for an additional autopsy requested by Bul Mabil only after law enforcement has completed their investigation, the additional autopsy to be completed within a month of a completed investigation and the autopsy to be completed by a pathologist qualified to perform them.

On Wednesday, Thompson asked the Department of Justice to open an investigation into the disappearance of the Jackson man.

“Your immediate attention is necessary because I have been informed your immediate action is necessary because of the circumstances surrounding his disappearance,” Thompson wrote in a Wednesday letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland.

In the letter, Thompson mentioned the discovery of human remains in the Pearl River over the weekend, which he was informed could be Mabil.

Mabil, 33, was last seen March 25 after his wife said she received a text message from him and he left without his phone. Video footage showed him near Jefferson Street between Fortification and High Street, along his usual walking area between Belhaven Heights and downtown.

The family filed a missing persons report with the Capitol Police, which has jurisdiction over the Belhaven and downtown area where Mabil lives and was last seen.

The family said they did not believe that he disappeared without a reason.

Bul Mabil is calling on Capitol Police and the Jackson Police Department to work together and find out what happened to Dau. A spokesperson from the Department of Public Safety declined to comment further because of an open and active investigation.

Bul Mabil said his brother was the youngest of six siblings. Their mother who still lives in a refugee camp is devastated by his death. Dau Mabil has a son. whom Bul Mabil said he plans to raise.

The brothers were brought to Jackson after escaping war torn Sudan, and in America they hoped for a better life.

“None of us believed that we would lose our lives here … and look what happened?” said Bul Mabil. “My brother is not here.”

Update 4/19/24: This story has been updated to include assertions in the court filing of Dau Mabil’s wife, Karissa Bowley, in response to the restraining order.

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.